Family Resemblance [intro]

I've been thinking about two things lately for a couple of reasons. One is my interest in what is happening inside orthodox Presbyterianism over the "Federal Vision". Another is my abiding burden for the matter of Roman Catholicism and those who stay inside that body. And a third is that I just can't let anything go.

See: about 3 years ago (was it longer? Maybe 4 years ago?) James White and Doug Wilson had this debate about the status of Roman Catholics as "brothers and sisters in Christ". You can buy the audio here. The reason I bring this up is because this debate really started my obsession with the topic of baptism -- not because I am somehow allured by paedobaptism, but because I can't believe anyone is allured by it.

That said (sorry Al; sorry Doug; sorry Gadbois and Skyman), this series is not about baptism: it's about a claim or an assertion Doug Wilson made in that debate which I have been mulling over intently ever since. During the cross examination, Pastor Wilson said (in words to this effect) that the reason that we must consider the Roman Catholic our brother in Christ is that his baptism vouchsafes such a thing. That is, objectively, he got the sign and seal, and that means we have to treat him as a "member of the covenant" -- that is, a member of the church, a member of the visible body inside the visible effects of the New Covenant.

But on the other hand, when pressed, Pastor Wilson made another startling affirmation: he also said that if Rome ever made a denial of the trinity -- and his example was that if they simply took Munificentissimus Deus seriously and made the Queen of Heaven an intrigal part of the Godhead -- we could start calling their baptisms faulty in the same way we call Mormon baptisms faulty. If that happened, we could stop calling Catholics "brothers in Christ" because they didn't know Christ. They couldn't recognize Him. They weren't putting His work on in baptism, and they would be "out", so to speak.

Since DW makes a pass here every now and again, I welcome him to tidy up this entry with any corrections as I am not working off a transcript. I have listened to the deabte 4 or 5 times, and this much seems clear to me, but he may have a salient matter to append here which I have missed.

At any rate, that matter of defacing the Trinity has interested me for one reason in two examples. The first example is this, from 1 John 2:
    I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us--eternal life.
This being the guy who calls God "love", and extolls the love of the Father through the Son. But it's an interesting passage as it cuts some pretty fine theological mitre joints and glues them up for us.

And I say that especially in light of the Catholic Catechism's adaptation of Lumen gentium which says this (sans footnotes):
839 "Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways."
The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People, "the first to hear the Word of God." The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God's revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews "belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ", "for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable."

840 and when one considers the future, God's People of the Old Covenant and the new People of God tend towards similar goals: expectation of the coming (or the return) of the Messiah. But one awaits the return of the Messiah who died and rose from the dead and is recognized as Lord and Son of God; the other awaits the coming of a Messiah, whose features remain hidden till the end of time; and the latter waiting is accompanied by the drama of not knowing or of misunderstanding Christ Jesus.

841 The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."

842 The Church's bond with non-Christian religions is in the first place the common origin and end of the human race:
All nations form but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock which God created to people the entire earth, and also because all share a common destiny, namely God. His providence, evident goodness, and saving designs extend to all against the day when the elect are gathered together in the holy city. . .

843 The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as "a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life."

844 In their religious behavior, however, men also display the limits and errors that disfigure the image of God in them:
Very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasonings, and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and served the creature rather than the Creator. Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair.
845 To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son's Church. the Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. the Church is "the world reconciled." She is that bark which "in the full sail of the Lord's cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world." According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah's ark, which alone saves from the flood.

"Outside the Church there is no salvation"

846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:
Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.
847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.
848 "Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.”
I am interested in these two writings because I think one disqualifies the other. I think one makes the other of dubious character. And in that, I think one puts the authors of the other in an interesting predicament.

So as we work through this, I ask that people who disagree with what I drop in here come forward and tell me what they think. Show me where I have err'd.

The series will begin tomorrow, and I am personally looking forward to it.